Though most people use commercial time to refill snacks or browse Instagram, I become mesmerized by the clever catchphrases and celebrity appearances. My affinity for commercials is capitalism at its finest. But I’m not ashamed of it. I wouldn’t have found out about Pillow Pets from anywhere else.
As I type this, Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday is nearing its final minutes. Spoiler alert: the Seahawks creamed the Broncos, though tension ran through the crowd when defensive back Richard Sherman suffered a right ankle injury. Bruno Mars put on an impressive and entertaining show, though it left me nostalgic for Beyoncé’s performance last year. What I mostly noticed, however, is that this year’s game will remind me of past Super Bowls. The most vivid parts of the Super Bowl, as expected, were the commercials.
Each year, watching the Super Bowl on television as a mild sports enthusiast leaves me uninterested to most of the game. I must admit that my knowledge of football is quite limited. Coming from Kansas, my allegiance lies only with the Chiefs. I do, however, enjoy partaking in this traditional , “American” experience. But the fact of the matter is that I won’t remember “that amazing pass” or “that close call.” What I will remember are the commercials: I still watch that Darth Vader Volkswagen commercial from two years ago on a regular basis to put me in a better mood.
The pull these Super Bowl ads have leads me to question how much they detract from the actual game. More than 108 million people watched the Super Bowl last year, according to ESPN. It fell short of the record for the most-watched game ever, but the volume of people watching attracts attention to the multitude of commercials. With so much marketing jam-packed into the game, people lose the ability to filter the products being presented to them. Celebrities from all parts of the industry appear in the commercials, and on top of the performances for the halftime show, the game of football becomes more of a moneymaking machine. Thinking of it that way makes me feel jaded about the whole Super Bowl experience.
On top of that, there were 55 commercials played within the approximate four-hour block, according to Yahoo Finance. Each 30-second spot cost $4 million to show, and each commercial could cost up to $2 million to produce. The average NFL player makes anywhere between $1 million and $1.9 million annually, according to Sports Illustrated. That’s less than the cost of a one-minute spot. Plus, these commercials could be incapable of reaching out to the masses, because of the population that watches the Super Bowl, a good majority of people are not in the market for a new car or watch. Thus, the Super Bowl uses entertainment for entertainment’s sake. It makes the commercial empty and leads me to think that there are better ways to use that space.
One consolation, however, is that some of this year’s commercials were socially conscious. Cheerios produced an advertisement featuring one of the commercial world’s first biracial couples. Bruce Willis represented Honda not for its speedy rides, but for car safety. If the sentiment of commercials is less “purchase me” and more along the lines to push people to make better decisions or shed light on a very real family construction, so much more than a Super Bowl win could be celebrated.
Commercials often make viewers lose sight of the game, using flashy sales tactics as an appeal for audiences. The millions and millions pooled in for commercial production fail to really invite audiences to buy items; instead, the space it takes up leads the Super Bowl to become more of a superficial event. There is, however, one must-see commercial this year — Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” advertisement.
I guess some things are worth the distraction.
Danni Wang is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. Her column, “Pop Fiction,” runs Tuesdays.